Sunday, March 7

Can Thiago’s return to Liverpool’s midfield reignite the front three?

If there’s been any positive surrounding Liverpool’s recent Premier League form, it’s been the return of Thiago Alcantara to first-team action. The Spanish international was heralded as the missing piece of the jigsaw for Jurgen Klopp’s side when he signed from Bayern Munich in the summer – a player with ability to unlock stubborn defences, and give Liverpool more of an edge when taking on teams that defend deep.

In his early performances for the Reds, you could already see the difference Thiago could make, but an injury suffered in the Merseyside Derby as a result of a horror challenge from Everton’s Richarlison left Thiago out of action for almost three months, and it’s only recently that he has regained full fitness and made his presence felt in Liverpool’s starting eleven once more.

Thiago has returned to Liverpool’s starting line-up at a time when their front three are struggling to find the net. The Reds have scored just one goal in four games since they put seven past Crystal Palace in December, with the recent 0-0 draw with Manchester United the latest example of Liverpool squandering good openings in the final third.

At the moment, all of Sadio Mané, Mohamed Salah and Roberto Firmino seem slightly unsure of themselves, taking more touches than necessary and failing to find the magic touch that has defined them for quite a few seasons now. Add in the fact that Trent Alexander-Arnold, who is so often a provider for the front three, has himself suffered a dip in form and Liverpool suddenly look worryingly toothless, and are falling out of favour in the betting exchange as a result.

But Thiago is a player who has the quality to reinject a bit of spark into Liverpool’s performances in an attacking sense. The 29-year-old has a unique ability to pick forward passes, firing the ball into the forwards with supreme speed and precision. He is an attacker’s dream, as he will exploit even the smallest opening to create a goalscoring chance.

It may still take a while for Thiago and Liverpool’s forwards to fully understand each other’s games, simply due to the fact they haven’t played together all that much yet. But as the games go by, you would expect to see the influence of Thiago become more and more apparent, and Liverpool’s front three should be rejuvenated as a result.

Failing to score has rarely been an issue for Klopp’s men. Indeed, all the doubts this season have been over the defence given the long-term injuries to Virgil Van Dijk and Joe Gomez, and the persistent injury complaints of Joël Matip. But actually, since the 7-2 defeat to Aston Villa, Liverpool’s defensive record has been pretty impressive – it’s the goalscoring side of things that has let them down at times.

There was much fanfare when the signing of Thiago in the summer was finally announced. It was the first time in a long while that Liverpool had bought a ready-made first-team-quality player, and was a sign of the club’s growing stature in the transfer market as a result of their recent success domestically and in Europe.

Injury has stunted Thiago’s influence so far, but now that he is fully fit, Klopp will be hoping that he can breathe new life into Liverpool’s ailing attack, and that the singular quality of the diminutive Spaniard might fire the team to a Premier League title defence.

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